One of the most anticipated events of the year, the European Week of Regions & Cities, took place in Brussels – Belgium from Monday 10th of October to Thursday 13th of October. Policymakers, regional leaders, politicians and stakeholders met to discuss the challenges and opportunities to foster growth in regions and cities. The topics analyzed throughout the four-days and more than 100 multiple conference sessions and seminars, ranged from measures to create job opportunities for all and building a more ‘self-employment friendly’ business environment, to best practices on implementing EU-backed projects.
The opening session of the event included welcoming speeches and remarks by Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu, who stressed that the aim of the four-day event ‘is not to replicate experiences or copy and paste projects, but rather to give cities and regions a chance to exchange, learn and build their own ways to foster innovation, growth and jobs’ and by President of the European Committee of the Regions Markku Markkula who stated that “Cohesion Policy should bring regions and cities closer together, enabling regions to face challenges, and fight populist movements whose desire is to destroy Europe” and recalled that the EU needs to build a stronger and reformed Cohesion Policy. The first day of the event included a debate on the future of Cohesion Policy, as members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) called for more simplification and cutting of red tape in the outlining of future policies and a second debate which explored issues around the EU Urban Agenda and the cities as engines for growth and opportunities. The day concluded with the RegioStars exhibition and awards.
During the second day of the event amongst others sessions regional policymakers met to present the European Cities Report – a paper drafted by the European Commission and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) ahead of the HABITAT III Conference in Quito, Ecuador on 17-20 October 2016. The report aimed at triggering a debate on the EU Urban Agenda and featured the latest developments on urbanization, urban mobility, urban governance, demographic trends and more. On a parallel session, the covenant of mayors held a meeting in which mayors from across Europe and European Commission officials discussed the challenges in implementing policies to reduce the risk of energy poverty in the EU, where 54 million people are at risk. In the evening, the EUWRC Official reception and RegioStars Award Ceremony took place, where the best projects in the categories of Smart Growth, Sustainable Growth, Inclusive Growth, Citystar and Better Management were awarded.
The events of the third day focused on achieving better Cohesion Policy results. Fruitful discussions took place throughout the day on issues ranging from governments’ digital transformation, peri-urban areas, open data and the Urban Agenda. Early in the morning, European regional and youth organisations met to discuss challenges young generations face such as unemployment, low political and social engagement and radicalization. During the midday, policymakers, city and government authorities gathered to discuss partnerships established under a new Urban Agenda for the EU. The Urban Agenda for the EU will feature 12 partnerships each bringing together urban authorities, European Commission representatives, Member States, experts, knowledge organisations and stakeholders to improve urban policy. Partnerships covered a range of topics from urban poverty, housing and migrants to air quality and urban mobility.
Thursday was the final day of the 2016 European Week of Regions and Cities, and participants focused on reaching conclusions on a number of key issues discussed throughout the week. The day started with workshops on waste energy recovery and on EU cross-border rail investments. Later, policymakers met to discuss how to better manage EU Regional Funds, while experts and stakeholders gathered to debate smart specialisation.
EuroConnect having its home office in Brussels, actively participated in EWRC 2016, with a multitudinous mission, which conducted a series of contacts with foreign bodies and contributed constructively in the exchange of ideas and cooperation proposals with members of the local, regional and national administration of countries, participating in the conference.